4 April 2009

Autobiographical memory

Human beings are endowed with an “ecological brain” (Shore, 1996). Its plasticity may cause environmental influences, specifically social influences, to shape neural connectivity patterns. We are, therefore, in the position to claim that cross-cultural differences in perception and emotions are modelled by socio-cultural features. The coding of autobiographical information is always filtered by cultural models from the outside world (Welzer & Markowitsch, 2005). People acquire these cultural models throughout the process of development and socialisation (Shore, 1996).
Autobiographical memories guarantee the ability essential to at least highly individualised societies, to maintain both a coherent awareness of one's self over time and a consistent feeling of identity. They also function to structure the shareable life story of the people. Thus, they not only define social identity, linking individual past experiences to a past shared by a community, but also sustain a network of personal aims over the life-span (Conway, 2001). Autobiographical memory plays a key role in social interactions (Pasupathi, 2003; Pasupathi et al, 2006). People usually use their past experiences in order to begin and establish new human relationships, talking about their past to show who they are and to accomplish their goals. Autobiographical memories are also utilized to create a feeling of connection and intimacy with partners.
Episodic memory is mostly grounded in the autobiographical events that one has undergone throughout the life course. One of its main features resides in its marked constructive nature (Conway, 2005; Schacter & Addis, 2007) which, on the one hand, functions to build coherent memories of the past – from a fragmentary incoming perceptual information - and on the other, to develop a personal orientation towards future events based on previous and current experiences (Wessel & Moulds, 2008). This ability to orientate towards future events is grounded in its flexibility to integrate past and current experiences and relate them to the future in a coherent schema.
Autobiographical memories, that is to say, memories related to the self as well as memories linked to its mappings onto future events, depend on the current mental state of the individual. In other words, they depend on emotional states shaped by mood, motivation, perceived environmental circumstances, and so on. A key feature of autobiographical memories is their relation to emotions. Emotions always reflect themselves in relation to oneself and they come into play at the time of evaluating the subjective position vis-à-vis the environment (Damasio, 1994, 2003; Forgas, 2006; Zajonc, 2003). Emotional evaluations perform an important role at the times of perceiving, coding, storing and retrieving relevant autobiographical information for the individual. This is why the same individual may remember one specific autobiographical experience in a different fashion (Loftus, 1979; Markowitsch, 2003a) depending on whether s/he is feeling fear, sadness, anger, guilt, hope, etc. at the time of recalling. In short, the subjective perception of environmental features during the time of remembering performs a central role in the whole process.

1 comment:

Fátima said...

Me parece muy interesante lo que has escrito... conecta con aspectos de la construcción de representaciones subjetivas sobre los elementos relevantes de la situación comunicativa (modelos de contexto: almacenados en memoria episódica) y la gestión de uno de sus elementos esenciales: el concocimiento. ¿Cómo gestionamos el conocimiento en la interacción comunicativa? ¿Cómo equilibramos nuestro conocimiento con el conocimiento de nuestro interlocutor? La percepción subjetiva de unos mismo y de la situación sería el primer paso... conciencia.